12th Century

The University of Bologna in Italy became famous for the study of law and set the pattern for Italian and Spanish universities. The University of Salerno, also in Italy, became the leading center for the study of medicine. Beginning in the 12th century, universities were also established in England, Germany, Bohemia, and Poland.

Medieval universities offered a liberal arts curriculum, which then consisted of the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and logic) and the quadrivium (music, astronomy, geometry, and mathematics). After completing the liberal arts, some students went on to the professional studies of theology, law, or medicine.

Only a very small number of men attended universities in the medieval period; women were not admitted. Most of the students and professors were members of religious orders and worked as clerics. Instruction consisted of lectures conducted in Latin, the universal language of Europe at the time. Usually a professor read an important text to students, who copied it. After a student completed his studies, and then wrote and defended a thesis or dissertation, he would be awarded either a master or doctor of philosophy degree.

Feudalism reached its maturity in the 11th century and flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries. Its cradle was the region between the Rhine and Loire rivers, but in the late 11th century rulers of that region conquered southern Italy and Sicily, England, and, with the First Crusade, the Holy Land. To each place they took their feudal institutions. Southern France, Spain, northern Italy, and Germany also adopted some degree of feudalism in the 12th century. Even central and eastern Europe came under its spell to a limited degree, especially after the Byzantine Empire was feudalized following the Fourth Crusade. But the “feudalisms” of ancient Egypt and Persia, or of China and Japan, were not related to European feudalism and generally were only superficially similar. Perhaps the Japanese samurai most resembled medieval knights, particularly under the Ashikaga shoguns (1336-1573), but the relationships between lords and vassals in Japan were different from those of Western feudalism.

 

Most Romanesque sculpture was integrated into the church architecture and served structural as well as aesthetic purposes. Therefore, it is difficult to characterize Romanesque sculpture without speaking about church architecture. Small-scale sculpture in ivory, bronze, and gold during the pre-Romanesque epoch was influenced by Byzantine and Early Christian models. Other elements of the various local styles were adopted from the crafts of the Middle Eastern countries, known through imported illuminated manuscripts, ivory carvings, gold work, ceramics, and textiles. Motifs originating in the arts of the migratory peoples, such as grotesque figures, figures of beasts, and geometric interlace patterns, were also important, particularly in the regions north of the Alps. Among the outstanding sculptural works of the period are the ivory carvings executed in the 9th century at the monastery of Saint Gall, Switzerland, notably those done by the monk Tutilo, and those credited to a workshop in the French city of Reims. Monumental sculpture was rarely practiced in the pre-Romanesque period, except as an adjunct to architecture. Major works of sculpture were produced at Hildesheim, Germany, in the 11th century, including church doors of bronze, baptismal fonts, sepulchral slabs, and other church furniture. Excellent doors of sculpted bronze were also fashioned in southern Italy (11th century) and northern Italy (12th century), most notably for San Zeno Maggiore at Verona. In the Meuse Valley of Belgium and northern France during the early 12th century, the Mosan school produced a large number of splendid bronze sculptures, including the large baptismal font (1107-1112, Saint Barthélemy, Liège, France) by Renier de Huy.


Large-scale stone sculptural decorations became common throughout Europe in the 12th century. In the French Romanesque churches of Provence, Burgundy, and Aquitaine, extensive sculptures were employed on the facades, and statues on engaged columns gave visual emphasis to the vertical supporting members. Notable examples of French architectural sculpture almost remain in their original state at the cathedrals in Toulouse, Autun, and Poitiers. Their composition and subject matter are the direct precursors of the Gothic masterpieces at Chartres, Amiens, and other French Gothic cathedrals. Interesting sculptural works were also executed in Lombardy and Tuscany, particularly on the facades of the cathedrals at Modena, Ferrara, Verona, and Parma.

Caravans carried silk on camelback from the heart of Asia to Damascus, Syria, the marketplace at which East and West met. Here silk was traded for Western luxuries, some of which survive in China today. Silk became a valuable commodity in both Greece and Rome. The Roman statesman and general Gaius Julius Caesar restricted silk to his exclusive use and to use for the purple Roman stripes on the togas of officials he favored. Despite this, however, the use of silk in Rome spread in  the era of pomp and display.


Until AD550 all silk woven in Europe was derived from Asiatic sources. About that time, however, the Roman emperor Justinian I sent two Nestorian monks to China, where, at the risk of their lives, they stole mulberry seeds and silkworm eggs, secreted them in their walking staffs, and brought them to Byzantium. Thus, the Chinese and Persian silk monopolies ended. With the spread of Islam, the silkworm came to Sicily and Spain. By the 12th and 13th centuries Italy had become the silk center of the West, but by the 17th century France was challenging Italy's leadership, and the silk looms established in the Lyons area at that time are still famous today for the unique beauty of their weaving.

 

According to Chinese legend, the weaving of silk originated in the 27th century BC during the reign of Emperor Huang Ti, whose wife supposedly developed the technique of reeling the thread of the silkworm for use in weaving. Although for many centuries raw silk and silk fabrics were exported to the Mediterranean countries, the source of the fiber remained unknown to Europeans until the 6th century AD, when travelers returning from China smuggled eggs of the silkworm into the Western world. From this stock, silkworm culture was introduced into Greece and Italy. By the 12th century silk was used for the weaving of precious fibers throughout Europe.

 

13th Century

Universities began to develop in Western Europe in the 13th century, most notably at Paris, France, and Bologna, Italy. Instruction in medieval universities often took the form of lectures, with teachers, who were called masters, reading aloud from a text while students followed along.

 

Fraticelli (Italian, “little brothers”), in a general sense, members of the religious orders founded in Italy in the 13th century, especially the Franciscans. The name also refers to members of the groups that separated from the Franciscans in the 14th and 15th centuries, charging the order with improper views regarding poverty. One of the earliest of these divergent groups, known as the Franciscan Celestines, or Spirituals, practiced severe asceticism. This group was declared heretical and ordered suppressed by Pope John XXII in 1317. In reply, the Celestines declared themselves not only the sole rightful Franciscan order, but the only true Catholics as well, condemning the entire church as heretical and declaring the papal decrees invalid. Small groups of Fraticelli continued their activities for more than a century. The church took strong measures against them in the 15th century, however, and their popular support diminishing, the Fraticelli eventually disappeared.

During medieval times most people lived in hovels or huts that provided little but shelter. The nobility and their retainers lived in structures built mainly for defense (see Castle).

In larger dwellings, the principal room was the great hall, which served for cooking, dining, and sleeping. Before the introduction of separate rooms for sleeping—a practice that began toward the end of the Romanesque period (11th century to 12th century)—all the retainers slept in the great hall, the women occupying a space enclosed by curtains. The great hall might be as long as 18 m (as long as 60 ft) and as wide as 6 m (as wide as 20 ft). This large area was covered with a roof supported by great wooden beams or trusses, which in later times were carved or painted. The ground floor, which was made of stone, earth, brick, or tile, was, in northern Europe, covered with rushes, straw, or leaves. During the time of the Crusades (12th century to 13th century), the use of Asian rugs (see Rugs and Carpets) brought from the Middle East came into vogue; these were initially used as decorative additions and not as floor coverings. The Normans hung tapestries on the walls of the great halls (see Tapestry). Need for insulation against heat and cold led to the plastering of the stone walls; after plastering came into use, the walls were often decorated with paintings in fresco. The principal objects of furniture were tables, benches, stools, and large storage chests, usually of oak. The storage chests, made of wrought iron or wood reinforced with wrought iron, were of particular importance: Most of the possessions of the lord of the castle, and also those of his retainers, were stored in these chests so that they could be removed expeditiously if military attack or fire made abandoning the castle necessary.

After the introduction in the 14th century of cannons and gunpowder, the castle no longer provided adequate protection. In addition, the establishment of relatively peaceful conditions in Europe, together with the rise of a merchant middle class, led to a demand for homes more comfortable than the castle and more suited to the needs of daily life (see House). Consequently, the Gothic manor house and the château began to evolve. Two- and three-story town and country houses were built, with living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, and storage space. The first such houses appeared in Italy, England, and France by the 13th century. After 1400 the use of tapestries, usually made in France, became general in northern Europe for wall coverings, for partitioning large rooms, for hanging over doors, and for enclosing beds. Wood shutters, formerly used on windows, began to be replaced by curtains.

During medieval times most people lived in hovels or huts that provided little but shelter. The nobility and their retainers lived in structures built mainly for defense (see Castle)

In larger dwellings, the principal room was the great hall, which served for cooking, dining, and sleeping. Before the introduction of separate rooms for sleeping—a practice that began toward the end of the Romanesque period (11th century to 12th century)—all the retainers slept in the great hall, the women occupying a space enclosed by curtains. The great hall might be as long as 18 m (as long as 60 ft) and as wide as 6 m (as wide as 20 ft). This large area was covered with a roof supported by great wooden beams or trusses, which in later times were carved or painted. The ground floor, which was made of stone, earth, brick, or tile, was, in northern Europe, covered with rushes, straw, or leaves. During the time of the Crusades (12th century to 13th century), the use of Asian rugs (see Rugs and Carpets) brought from the Middle East came into vogue; these were initially used as decorative additions and not as floor coverings. The Normans hung tapestries on the walls of the great halls (see Tapestry). Need for insulation against heat and cold led to the plastering of the stone walls; after plastering came into use, the walls were often decorated with paintings in fresco. The principal objects of furniture were tables, benches, stools, and large storage chests, usually of oak. The storage chests, made of wrought iron or wood reinforced with wrought iron, were of particular importance: Most of the possessions of the lord of the castle, and also those of his retainers, were stored in these chests so that they could be removed expeditiously if military attack or fire made abandoning the castle necessary.

The high, decorated ceilings and ainted walls of the 14th-century Palazzo Davanzati in Florence, Italy, were typical in the homes of wealthy people during the Renaissance.

Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

 

 

 

The houses of affluent people in the Renaissance (14th century to 16th century), contained large rooms and high ceilings elaborately ornamented with painted decorations and plaster moldings, usually derived from ancient Greek and Roman styles. Both the decorations and the furniture of the rooms were calculated to create an effect of richness and magnificence. In France and Italy, where such famous artists as Benvenuto Cellini and Raphael created household decorations, a room was judged by the ornamentation on the ceilings and walls. Little furniture was used. Sideboards (dressoirs), chests (cassoni), and clothes presses (armoires) were designed to complement the formal, symmetrical architectural features of the rooms.

Before the 13th century the literary language of Italy was Latin, which served for the writing of chronicles, historical poems, heroic legends, lives of the saints, religious poems, and didactic and scientific works. In addition to those who wrote in Latin, a number of the early Italian poets wrote in French or in Provençal, and borrowed most of their verse forms and literary themes from foreign sources. One of the most important verse forms was the Provençal canzone. The literary themes included the deeds of ancient heroes, of Arthurian knights, and of Charlemagne and his paladins. The geste, or tales, of Charlemagne first appeared in a Franco-Venetian vernacular and were later Italianized in Tuscany (Toscana). Besides attaining lasting popularity in Italy, the tales furnished themes of chivalry for subsequent Italian poets.

One of the greatest poets in the history of world literature, Italian writer Dante Alighieri composed poetry influenced by classical and Christian tradition. Dante’s greatest work was the epic poem La divina commedia (1321?; The Divine Comedy, 1802). It includes three sections: the Inferno (Hell), in which the great classical poet Virgil leads Dante on a trip through hell; the Purgatorio (Purgatory), in which Virgil leads Dante up the mountain of purification; and the Paradiso (Paradise), in which Dante travels through heaven. This passage from the Inferno (recited by an actor) comes at the beginning of the epic, when Dante loses his way in the woods. The illustration shows Dante standing in front of the mountain of Purgatory, with hell on his right and heaven on his left.

After the fall of the Hohenstaufen dynasty in 1254, the center of Italian poetry shifted to two cities, Arezzo, known for the work of Guittone d'Arezzo, and Bologna, distinguished by the innovations of Guido Guinizelli. Guittone d'Arezzo and his followers produced little poetry of distinction. Guinizelli was the creator of the dolce stil nuovo (“sweet new style”). In this style the poet did not exalt the worldly, fashionable type of love cultivated in the courts of princes, as in Provençal and Sicilian love poetry. He wrote instead of a Platonic love relationship, in which the loveliness of the adored woman spiritualized the lover, lifting his soul to a comprehension of divine beauty. The greatest of Italian poets, Dante Alighieri, who had a high regard for Guinizelli, wrote his first book, La vita nuova (1292; The New Life,1861), in the new style. In prose narrative interspersed with lyrics, Dante described his idealized love for his beloved, Beatrice. Dante and the other poets of the dolce stil nuovo, notably Guido Cavalcanti and Cino da Pistoia, made it one of the great schools of Italian poetry.

Meanwhile another native, original type of poetry had appeared, a devotional poetry inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, whose Canto dell' amore (Canticle of Creatures) sings of love for all of God's creation rather than for any single human being. The same feeling was expressed in a collection of legends in verse, Fioretti (Little Flowers), based on the life of St. Francis. Other Franciscan poets followed in the 13th century, among them a poet with a Dantesque imagination, Jacopone da Todi, among whose beautiful hymns are the famous “Our Lady of the Passion” and “Stabat Mater.”

The 14th-century Italian poet Dante Alighieri completed The Divine Comedy shortly before his death in 1321. The following excerpt is taken from the first two cantos of the Purgatorio (Purgatory). In Canto I Dante, guided by the Roman poet Virgil, meets with Cato of Utica, guardian of the shores of purgatory. They learn that Dante must be cleansed of the filth of hell before he can enter purgatory. Once inside (Canto II), the poets witness The Angel Boatman’s ferry ride to the shores of purgatory and speak with his boatload of souls.

 

Dante is one of the great figures of world literature. He is remarkable for the loftiness of his thought, the vividness and fluency of his verse, and the boldness of his imagination. He was one of the founders of Italian literature through his use of the vernacular for some of his greatest works. About 1304 he wrote in Latin De Vulgari Eloquentia (Concerning the Common Speech), in which he advocated the use of Italian as a literary language.

Dante mastered the knowledge of his time and stands out as the greatest interpreter of the ideals of medieval Europe. His Convivio (The Banquet), written during the first years of the 14th century, is an almost encyclopedic summary of European culture. To his scholarship Dante added experience drawn from a varied and active civic life. He served as a magistrate of Florence and took part in the political controversies of the time. His political convictions, for which he suffered exile, are expressed plainly in his Latin treatise on government, De Monarchia (circa 1313); in this work he projected enlightened imperial rule as the ideal system in which multiple conflicting states would be absorbed in one, church and state would be separated, and justice would be founded on Roman law.

Dante's greatest work is his epic poem La divina commedia (The Divine Comedy), probably begun about 1307, and written in the vernacular for the sake of full and direct communication. It is a dramatization of medieval philosophy and theology partly in terms of the controversies and personalities of 13th- and 14th-century Italy. In some respects it is a literary guided tour through the three worlds of medieval theology: hell, purgatory, and paradise. Dante's guides are Beatrice, the object of his chaste adoration, and the Roman poet Virgil.

 

III         RENAISSANCE  

The Renaissance in Italy was a period of expanding economic, political, and cultural activity. The towns and cities emerged from feudal conditions to become centers of commerce and industry. City leaders struggled constantly to increase their power by conquest and by establishing spheres of influence. Some city-states, such as Venice and Genoa, won control of Mediterranean empires. The period was marked by a rebirth of culture based on the discovery of ancient manuscripts and the reevaluation of classical literature and philosophy, which spread eventually throughout Europe.

Many of the great figures of early Renaissance literature were scholars concerned with philological research into and the translation of the Greek and Latin classics. They were called humanists because of their interest in human rather than otherwordly ideals, as opposed to the scholars and thinkers of the Middle Ages. Many humanists turned for inspiration to the works of Plato in preference to those of his pupil Aristotle, who was the dominant influence in medieval scholarship.

Petrarch is often referred to as the “modern man” because of his interest in individuality; his Vita Solitaria (1480; Solitary Life,1924) and his De Remediis Utriusque Fortunae (1468; Physicke Against Fortune,1579) are considered the first essays to express this new attitude. He has been called also the first Italian nationalist, as contrasted with Dante, who was a universalist and for whom Italy was a part to be fitted into an imperial whole. To Petrarch, Italy was the heir and successor of ancient Rome, the civilizing mission of which he glorified in his Latin epic Africa (critical edition, 1926), dealing with the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage. He believed that the various states of Italy should be united to resume the mission of ancient Rome.

Impressive as were Petrarch's contributions to classical scholarship, his greatness rests on his Italian lyrics. His Canzoniere (after 1327; trans. 1777)—a collection of sonnets addressed to Laura, probably the Frenchwoman Laure de Noves, the counterpart of Dante's Beatrice—departs from the idealized approach of the dolce stil nuovo. It introduced an intensity and inwardness of feeling and perception heretofore unknown in European poetry.


Boccaccio, like Petrarch, was conscious of belonging to a new age. He was strongly influenced by Petrarch, and the two men became close friends. Boccaccio had a strong narrative bent, as evidenced by his prose romances Il Filocolo (circa 1336) and L'amorosa Fiammetta (Amorous Fiammetta, c. 1343). Boccaccio's greatest work is his Decamerone (1353; The Decameron,1620), a masterpiece in which he drew directly from life instead of from literary models. It is a collection of 100 short stories presumed to have been told during a period of ten days by seven gentlemen and three ladies of Florence living in a remote country villa in which they had taken refuge from an epidemic of the plague.

Unlike Petrarch, Boccaccio valued Dante highly; his last work was a biography and a series of lectures on the work of the great poet. Boccaccio's writings gained an international public and were drawn upon for plots and characters by writers in other countries. For example, his epic poem La Teseida (c. 1341) was used by the 14th-century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer as the basis for his “Knight's Tale” and by the 17th-century English poet John Dryden in his poem “Palamon and Arcite.”

Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio were the first Italian writers to make literary use of the Tuscan dialect spoken in Florence, Siena, and other towns of north-central Italy, and they won for it general acceptance as the language of culture.

A 15th-century Italian statesman and banker, Lorenzo de’ Medici served as an influential patron of the humanities during the Renaissance (1300-1600). The Medici family ruled Florence from the mid 1400s through 1737, directing the political, social, and cultural destinies of the city. Lorenzo, himself a poet, built libraries in Florence and supported artists and literary figures such as the painters Michelangelo and Boticelli and the humanist poet Angelo Poliziano (Politian).

 

 

 

 

15th Century  
In the Renaissance appeared many examples of the so-called universal man, who achieved greatness in more than one field. Among the most famous figures of this type were the architect, painter, organist, and writer Leon Battista Alberti, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo. This universality of mind and talent was true also of the princes who ruled the Italian towns, the most brilliant of whom was Lorenzo de' Medici, a member of the Medici family that ruled Florence. Lorenzo was a brilliant statesman and administrator, a patron of the arts, a poet, and a critic of distinction.

Angelo Poliziano, called Politian, is generally considered the outstanding poet of the period. His verse play Orfeo (1480?; trans. 1880) ranks as the first important work in the Italian drama, and his collections of lyrics are of a high order. Politian is famous also for his scholarly editions and translations of Greek texts.

In this period the Carolingian geste and the pastoral continued to provide literary themes. Among the outstanding gestes was the Orlando innamorato (Roland in Love, 1487) of Matteo Maria Boiardo. The finest work in the pastoral genre was Arcadia (1504), by Jacopo Sannazzaro, which attained Continental recognition. In their preoccupation with worldly rather than religious values Renaissance writers departed widely from the Christian concepts of the Middle Ages. The popes themselves patronized atheist and so-called pagan authors. Some of these writers, especially the humanist Lorenzo Valla, whose bold exposure of dubious papal documents almost cost him his life, mentioned Christian authors only to find fault with them. The sermons and polemical writings of the reformer Girolamo Savonarola, who attempted to reverse this trend, provide graphic descriptions of revived pagan tastes and practices. He instituted a theocratic republic in Florence, but it lasted less than three years. He was abandoned by the people and suffered martyrdom for his defiance of Pope Alexander VI, who was famous for his patronage of pagan culture.

            C          16th Century  
The Renaissance reached its fulfillment in the 16th century. Italian, long eclipsed by the humanists' preoccupation with Greek and Latin, rose to a new and conscious dignity as a medium of serious literary expression. Pietro Bembo, who exercised tremendous influence in the first half of the century, contributed greatly to this development. In his treatises, especially Le prose della volgar lingua (Prose in the Vernacular, 1525), he established Boccaccio's writings as the model for prose. His Rime (1530), imitative of Petrarch's verse, marked the effective beginning of the movement known as Petrarchism. Other writers of this period who made much more creative use of the heritage of humanism were the statesman and political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli and the poet Lodovico Ariosto.


Both from his experiences as a Florentine official and diplomat and from his historical studies, Machiavelli arrived at the realistic conception of statecraft with which his name has since been linked. It is elaborated in Il principe (1532; The Prince,1640), an analysis of the basis and exercise of political power that formed part of a larger work, his commentary on The History of Rome by the Roman historian Livy. The premise of The Prince is that “the preservation of the state is the supreme law” transcending all other obligations. Machiavelli's ideal prince anticipated the so-called benevolent despots of later periods who consolidated state power and deployed it in international affairs. In his thinking he departed from medieval theocratic concepts and presaged modern scientific political economy. Some historians conjecture that had his views been realized Italy might have been united under a strong ruler and spared the subsequent French and Spanish invasions. Other works by Machiavelli include a treatise on the art of war, a history of Florence, a biography (1520) of the Italian soldier and political figure Castruccio Castracani, poems, and a number of plays. His most famous play, La mandragola (1524; The Mandrake,1957), is a bitter, pessimistic analysis of human instincts. In it he applied to social and religious life the principle of analysis that he applied in The Prince to political life.

The Florentine historian and statesman Francesco Guicciardini, Machiavelli's friend, is best known for La storia d'Italia (posthumously pub. 1561-64; The History of Italy,1579), a work outstanding for its objectivity and its astute discussion of personalities and events. His Ricordi politici e civili (Political and Civil Memoirs,1857) is based on his thorough experience as a political participant in the affairs of Florence.

The genius of Ariosto, the supreme poet of the 16th century, found its best expression in the epic poem Orlando furioso (The Mad Roland, 1516), a work of originality and power in continuation of Boiardo's Orlando innamorato. The events related in the poem concern the struggle of Charlemagne and his paladins against the Saracens. Against this unifying background, the epic weaves together adventure, romance, magic, heroism, villainy, pathos, sensuality, and contemporary reality into a sophisticated, ever varying narrative enlivened by humor and gentle irony. The poem achieves the universal appeal of a masterpiece because Ariosto's extraordinary imagination is based on a profound understanding of human nature and psychology.


Two popular treatises on manners belong to this period of cosmopolitan refinement and worldly accomplishment. Il cortegiano (1528; The Courtier,1561), by the diplomat Baldassare Castiglione, is a discussion of etiquette, social problems, and the advantages of intellectual pursuits. It served as a handbook for the training of gentlemen on the Continent and in England. Galateo (1558; trans. 1576), by the prelate Giovanni della Casa, discusses etiquette from the point of view of a broad understanding of human nature.


A violent reaction against this cult of fancy, beauty, and refinement is found in the mock epic Baldus (1517) by Teofilo Folengo. Written in the macaronic style, a comical burlesque of scholarly Latin, it is an extremely and often vulgarly funny parody of the world of chivalry and belles lettres and satirizes many aspects of contemporary life. The French writer François Rabelais found inspiration and material in Baldus. Another rebel, of much greater contemporary prestige, was Pietro Aretino, a talented playwright and pamphleteer. His Ragionamenti (Reasonings, 1532-34) and the six volumes of his letters (1537-57) best represent his scurrilous and harsh wit.

The great artists of the period made several notable contributions to literature. The sonnets of Michelangelo are impassioned expressions of inner feelings and religious conviction. Leonardo's treatises on art and science contain principles of analysis that have profoundly influenced modern thinkers. The remarkable autobiography of the sculptor Benvenuto Cellini ranks among the greatest personal documents in all literature. The biographies of famous painters, sculptors, and architects written by the painter and architect Giorgio Vasari constitute an invaluable source of art history.

The short narrative tale is best represented in the 16th century by the Novelle (4 volumes, 1554-73) of Matteo Bandello. These tales, modeled on those of Boccaccio, formed the basis of many European literary works, including probably Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.

The second half of the 16th century was dominated by the Counter Reformation, which began with the Council of Trent in 1545. The resulting wave of piety and submission to authority replaced the frank enjoyment and exploration of life cultivated by the humanists and their successors with a superficial regard for morality and public welfare. The exuberant freedom of expression and form characteristic of Ariosto was frowned on, while such freedom of thought and utterance as Machiavelli's became downright dangerous. In literature this change was intensified by a new classicism, which relied on the authority of Aristotle's rediscovered Poetics and spread later throughout all Europe. In 1548 the Poetics was published in the original with a Latin translation and commentary by Francesco Robortelli. Many other versions as well as treatises on the Poetics followed, the most important of which were the Poetics (1561) of Julius Caesar Scaliger and the commentary (1570) by Lodovico Castelvetro, in which the unities of time and place in drama were first set forth.

Despite the prevailing climate of repression, one great lyric and imaginative poet, Torquato Tasso, produced a masterpiece, Gerusalemme liberata (1575; Jerusalem Delivered,1884). This beautiful epic treatment of the First Crusade is much shorter and simpler and more unified and serious than the Orlando furioso. It aroused so much pedantic criticism, however, that the author later rewrote it, producing a work of inferior quality. Another great mind and bolder spirit, the philosopher Giordano Bruno, wrote dialogues attacking pedantry and authoritarianism and daring to uphold views that were forbidden by the church. He was burned at the stake as a heretic in Rome in 1600. 

 

Source:
Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2000
Encyclopedia Britannica